Arnab Goswami: Best time to enter news market when there's no leader

MUMBAI: Whether off screen or on screen Arnab Goswami is a passionate and animated speaker, though some would say he’s given to histrionics. "The best time to enter the (news) market is when there is no leader," Goswami said with his trademark flourish, barely few months after leaving Times TV Network as group editor where he often claimed Times NOW was the No. 1 news channel in the country.

He delivered this almost knockout punch against his previous news platform in a sotto voice dressed casually in a jeans with a jacket draped over it. Hopefully without batting an eyelid (his eyes were hidden behind dark shades, though), he delivered his next punchline: “English news market has flattened out. There was a gap of about 15-20 per cent between Times NOW and other channels when I was leading it, but now there is no clear leader."

Gearing up for the launch of his entrepreneurial venture Republic TV, an English News channel, and Republic World, a digital platform, Goswami, in an exclusive conversation with indiantelevision.com on the sidelines of FICCI Frames 2017 here, noted that flattening of the news market was good for his venture

Though Goswami sounds confident about his venture, but, probably, his previous employers do still rile him still. Remember the story of David and Goliath?

"One TV channel constantly says that we are not going to let Republic crush us. Every morning they wake up talking about us, giving interviews. I would tell that channel to stop being paranoid,” he drops his voice --- may be for effect --- and goes on to add loudly, “Your paranoia about us will make you fail.” Full marks for being candid!!

Well, even when we thought Goswami was through with rubbing it in and we could move over to other topics for discussion, he holds the line, if we use cricket’s bowling analogy: “Unhealthy practices in the TV industry have started. One news channel, which has lost considerable amount of viewership, is going around telling distributors that they would be willing to pay more money if they (distributing platforms) could stop broadcasting Republic for a month. I am horrified.

“It reveals a sense of deep insecurity (in Republic’s competitors). They say things like ‘some small channel that has not stopped, has been renamed twice and would be renamed the third time just around the time of launch’. These are all signs of growing paranoia and nervousness. I want to tell these channels to not be worried and do something innovative and prepare for our launch. It’s a more healthy way of being in the business. "

So which are these TV channels that are maligning Republic and are “nervous” and “insecure”? We urge him to come clean on this name game. This time Goswami ducks the bouncer and counter-questions, “Well, everybody knows who they are. Don’t you people know the facts?”

According to the media buzz, Goswami will launch both his digital platform and the news channel in two months’ time. Though Goswami refrained from divulging more programming and other details of his ventures, buzz says the TV news anchor, who grew bigger than the company that employed him till few months, will return to the TV screen by anchoring a show on the channel in his trademark style ---- critics claim he would continue to be the prosecutor and judge making mincemeat of his panelists. "It will happen soon, much before what is been speculated," is all that Goswami is willing to state.

But, just as he cannot let go of a chance to add to the suspense, Goswami pulls back his long-ish hairs and noted with a flourish: “Starting with news in English, the channel (and the whole venture) will expand wherever the audiences exist.”

The two platforms have received an array of supporters from the advertising and sponsorship worlds. "Loads of people have been lining up to advertise with us. There has been a fantastic reception from the market. There has been a tremendous response from the advertisers from all categories --- those who are advertising on news and those who are working with us. They are all excited about the venture,” Goswami boasts, adding bashfully, “This is going to be the most exciting media launch in 2017."

For him, viewership is not just limited to market share, but is based on the total number of people watching a product. Strongly believing that unless a TV channel starts engaging with the audience, it would rapidly loose viewership, Goswami explains: "There has been a fall in viewership (of news channels), but that is because there is lack of innovation. Copycats don't work. You must evolve your own style. I wish people in the English news business start doing different formats on their own. It will be good for them. But, they don't have much time for that because we are coming with Republic. They just have a few weeks."

Is he looking for additional funding for his venture after BJP-backed MP of Rajya Sabha Rajeev Chandrashekhar put in reported over Rs. 3,000 million, apart from several other high networth individuals in their personal capacity? Goswami refused to speak on funding. But he was overheard telling a person, after delivering a keynote address at FICCI Frames 2017 here, that funding for the TV venture is over, though he is actively looking to raise additional investments for the digital platform.

While delivering his keynote address, reeled out in his usual style with emphasis on anecdotes, theatrics and requests for support from “you all”, Goswami highlighted the changing landscape of new business in India. Some of the highlights are as follows:

- Plain vanilla is boring. It is overused and dead.

- Opinion is the future. Having an opinion as a journalist is necessary. Opinions are sacred.

- Encourage speaking of English the Indian way. 'Hinglish' is the way ahead.

- Content will remain the king (where does that leave distribution platforms, the vehicle on which content will ride, we wonder. More specifically, where would that leave one of his many investors, Sameer Manchanda, who also is founder-promoter of MSO DEN Networks?)

- Television will outlive all news genres. There will be a collaboration and not competition of TV and digital.

- Technology will be the democratic enabler for media.

- Delivering news is what matters to India.

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